Meal preparation, or “meal prepping” as it’s more commonly known, is essential for not only initiating, but more importantly maintaining, a healthy low FODMAP diet. Knowing what to eat is only half the battle of following a low FODMAP diet, and where people often fall “off the wagon” is in the execution. The problem with messing up during the elimination phase is that oftentimes your dietitian will ask you to start all over again, as it becomes difficult to isolate what your trigger food (i.e., the culprit behind the flare up of IBS symptoms) actually was. Remember that a low FODMAP elimination diet should be strictly followed for at least 2 – 6 weeks in order to be effective. The answer: be prepared! You may know a certain food upsets you, but if you have no other options available as you haven’t preplanned your food for the week, you may find yourself in a situation where an upset tummy is a compromise you make in the face of the alternative - starvation!
It’s also not all that easy to make healthy and tummy-friendly food choices when you’re busy and stressed – two common features of modern life. There is where meal prepping, or the act of preparing meals in advance, really comes in handy. You know those awful, highly processed TV dinners you can find at large chain supermarkets? Well think of meal prepping like your own personal healthier, tastier, and unprocessed TV dinner! There are numerous benefits to meal prepping, including:
- Not having to prepare meals / think about what you’ll have during the week
- Controlling portion size
- Having food on hand that is healthy, won’t upset your stomach, and can be heated up in a matter of minutes
- Saving much-needed $$$$
The premise behind meal prepping is that if you have healthy, wholesome food available, you won’t be “tempted” or “lured” to break away from your clean eating low FODMAP diet. Believe us when we say, there’s a reason there is so much buzz around meal prepping right now … it works! So how is it done? Some handy low-FODMAP meal-prepping tips include:
- Leave time to construct a low-FODMAP shopping list. It’s when we’re rushed at the supermarket that we tend to make mistakes, forget to read labels, and then end up with a heap of food we feel too guilty to throw out but which we know our stomachs dislike
- Cook extra of specific foods (e.g., grains, pasta, meats, sauces) that will freeze well so you can re-heat as necessary
- Keep appropriate snacks on hand and in your bag
- Purchase in season fresh low FODMAP fruit and vegetables to reduce cost
- Frozen varieties of FODMAP friendly fruits and vegetables (e.g., berries which tend to be expensive fresh) are still a great option and will obviously have a longer shelf-life
- Try prepping 3-4 days’ worth of meals on a Sunday. Even if you prepare just lunches, this will stop you having to buy (often a high FODMAP and overpriced) lunch at work/school
- Rotate which grains/starchy veg / protein source / fats / vegetables you include in each of your meals to ensure nutrient variety, less likelihood of taste boredom (which leads to diet digression), and more diverse gut microbiota
- If you know you’re rushed in the mornings for breakfast, prepare something the night before to store in the fridge like Chia Seed Pudding or Overnight Oats
- Ensure you have sufficient food storage (try to avoid plastic if possible) to store your pre-prepared meals
If you need a hand, Casa de Sante takes most of the work out of meal prepping, by offering meal plans, recipes, videos and more. Their Low FODMAP Eating for Happiness Program (which can be accessed for FREE via this link) is designed to boost serotonin levels with scrumptious FODMAP-friendly meal plans that include tasty, healthy treats and heart healthy fats. On the Casa de Sante website you’ll also find Low FODMAP eCookbooks for when your culinary creative self emerges, and meal plans designed to enhance immune health … again, all free!
The best way of knowing which foods to include, and which to avoid is with the handy app from Monash University, which is regularly updated as more foods are tested. They use a traffic light system, making it easy for even the most nutritionally illiterate of us to understand. This app is an absolute godsend for those trying to work out which foods are safe … or not. FODMAP Friendly Food Program have a large range of packaged food products they have tested, with their symbol/certification clearly labelled on the front of package, making it easier to see if it is suitable or not. They also have an app which focuses more on which packaged foods are safe or not, compared to the Monash App which tends to focus on whole foods. The entire Casa de Sante range has received FODMAP Friendly certification.
Casa de Sante have also created a Low FODMAP Meal Planner App called Plan to Eat. This fantastic, easy to use tool makes eating at home easier by planning your meals - everything from recipe organization (using low FODMAP meal plans & recipes, bookmark your favorites on the web, or importing your personal recipes), creating your grocery shopping list to planning your menu for the week. The great news is you get a free one month subscription to the online meal planner so you can ‘try before you buy’!You can easily add recipes to the add and then share them with friends and family, and access others’ FODMAP friendly recipes. Finally, the smart App allows you to save and duplicate your meal plans which means once you've created them you can start rotating, which helps save even more time on busy weeks or remembering special holiday meal menus you use from year to year. There’s even an accompanying meal planning Facebook group you can join which provides inspiration and keeps you motivated. Available for both Android and iPhone, you’ve really got nothing to lose and everything to gain … so start downloading!